January 18, 1998 in Nation/World

Big Wad Of Money Gave Away Suspect Wanted In Trade Center Heist, He Flashed Cash On Train

Kit R. Roane New York Times
 

The suspect in last week’s bank robbery at the World Trade Center who was arrested in New Mexico was caught after flashing large sums of cash aboard an Amtrak train on which he was making his escape, law enforcement officials said Friday.

The suspect, Richard Gillette, 39, was taken into custody in Albuquerque on Friday night after a long ride on an Amtrak train bound for San Bernardino, Calif.

His undoing, like that of two other suspects charged in Tuesday morning’s robbery of $1.17 million from two Brinks security guards, was his desire to show off piles of cash, along with his haggard appearance, police officers in New Mexico said.

Gillette was being held Saturday in a New Mexico jail while awaiting a removal hearing before a U.S. magistrate in Albuquerque on Tuesday. He will later be returned to New York, where he is to join Melvin Desmond Folk and Michael Reed in facing federal bank-robbing charges, according to FBI agents.

Though Gillette’s profile had been circulated to law agencies around the country, police in New Mexico said he was picked up inadvertently. Capt. Rudy Acosta of the New Mexico State Police said Gillette had been sitting quietly in his seat for most of his trip from New York City on Amtrak’s Sunset Express train when he pulled out a large wad of money that caught the eye of a rail worker, who suspected that Gillette may have been a drug courier.

That worker phoned the next station, Albuquerque, to report the suspicious man. When the train arrived there, he led police officers and federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents to Gillette’s seat.

Acosta said that Gillette seemed extremely nervous and became more so when officers found $18,000 that he could not account for in his carry-on bag.

Gillette identified himself to the police officers as George Grillo. A drug enforcement agent confiscated Gillette’s bag until he could account for the money in it, leaving the suspect with a few hundred dollars. After the train left the station, the agent found an identity card with Gillette’s real name stuffed in the bottom of the bag.

The agent checked Gillette’s name against a law enforcement computer database, which revealed that Gillette was wanted for bank robbery in New York City. The agent then alerted law enforcement agencies in the state and arranged to have the train stopped at an Indian reservation just outside of town.

Gillette, however, had exited the train and gone to an Albuquerque bus station, the police said. A ticket agent there recognized his description, which had just been released by the police, and notified the authorities. Local police officers on bicycle patrol then began to scour the city’s bars and hotels in search of the fugitive.

Police said Gillette’s attire - a Green Bay Packers jacket and Dallas Cowboys T-shirt - made it easy for witnesses to spot him. At Famous Sam’s, a sports bar in Albuquerque, waitresses told three police officers in the bar that a man fitting Gillette’s description had come in to watch a game on the bar’s big-screen television but that they believed he had left after a few moments.

As it turned out, Gillette had slipped into the bar’s restroom to remove his distinctive jacket. After the officers left, he sat back down, warily eyeing everyone before taking the last sips of his Heineken and trotting outside, the police said. Workers in the bar, noticing that Gillette had returned to finish his beer, called the police back.

The officers found him a few minutes later in the lobby of the Kings Inn Hotel, a grimace on his face and his jacket stuffed in a bag.


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